Portsmouth’s chimes of injustice

I remember well the last time City played Portsmouth. New Year's Day 2005, we had Marc Edworthy harshly sent off after only five minutes, yet still somehow managed to come away with a point on an afternoon when it rained and rained.

And Portsmouth, despite being in the super-rich environs of the Premier League, didn't, at the time, provide any cover for away fans, instead issuing them with totally inadequate polythene covers.

I got really dumped upon that day, and, for very different reasons, Saturday had a rather similar feeling at times.

I've mentioned already about Messrs Kitson and Lawrence, but it wasn't until you saw the teams on Saturday that it brought home just how much Portsmouth, as a club, are being 'punished' for their recent financial mispractice.

Saturday's starting line-up has to be one of the strongest that City will face all season.


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Never mind that the back page of the programme could muster only 19 visiting-squad names, what Portsmouth were able to call upon was a very experienced bunch.

Clubs like the Canaries, who try to cover their losses, may well have to sell in January before they can afford to bring anyone else in to match the nous of even a Brown or a Mullins.

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For now, at least, Portsmouth appear to have come out of their problems smelling like roses.

And the whole situation stinks.

Rant aside, however, the fact was that ultimately, whatever the strength of the opposition line-up, there is only one reason why we didn't win on Saturday: a total inability to take our chances. At half-time this game had 0-1 written all over it such was City's wastefulness in front of goal.

You can't fault the work rate, and there was also some good defending, but you have to say that forwards are judged by their scoring records. And on that basis Simeon Jackson missed a couple of straightforward chances, while Chris Martin was trying too hard to be Grant Holt, although, to be fair, he was unlucky when the header which was a carbon copy of his effort at Derby was deflected wide.

But nice approach play counts for nothing without someone to finish it off, a point ruthlessly reinforced by Messrs Kitson and Nugent.

And after falling behind you sensed that even though there was more time to mount a fightback than there had been against Hull the outcome was likely to be pretty similar.

And so it proved. I admit to being slightly surprised that City's substitutions came so uncharacteristically late, and on another other day Elliott Ward's header would have gone in and we'd all now be quite happy with how things turned out.

Instead, we are left with three things to take away from Saturday afternoon:

• we need an effective plan B for the next time that Grant Holt is suspended – because it will happen, going into the referee's book is part and parcel of his game – and City can't afford to find a bench warmer who will only ever play in such an eventuality;

• there was bound to be an 'after the lord mayor's show' occasion following the Ipswich game. I thought it would come at Derby, and if you'd said to me that day that the Canaries would take only three points from their next two games I'd have been quite satisfied; and

• if we keep playing in the same manner on the road - and maintaining the current level of points accumulation – our away wins are cancelling out our home defeats.

A first-ever win at the Ricoh Arena – something this Canaries squad is easily capable of achieving – and Saturday will be forgotten.

And the last point is key: such is our current attacking away approach that by the time we pay our next visit to Fratton Park, for the last scheduled away game of the season, there should be no reason why we can't rain on any Portsmouth parade.

• REF HOOPER HAD A DAY TO FORGET

A word (or two) about Mr Hooper and his team's officiating on Saturday: absolutely appalling.

How, just after the hour mark John Utaka's challenge – and I use the term loosely – on Russell Martin at the City Stand/River End corner wasn't deserving of a booking I will never know.

And then there was the whole Leon Barnett situation. No complaints with the second yellow card – and you can only hope that subsequent events don't feature too strongly in the referee's report – but the first one was an absolute joke, and, you can only presume, came about because a very vocal Portsmouth bench was extremely close to the action.

• CHRISTMAS TAXI FOR MR KEANE

Leicester and Watford at home, just the sort of fixtures you don't want in the coming fortnight if you're Ipswich Town.

The Foxes have won five of their last eight, while Watford are unbeaten in four.

Everything points to Malky Mackay further enhancing his growing managerial reputation by applying the finishing touch to Keane's Portman Road stay on Boxing Day, methinks.

• DRAW OFFERS A CHANCE FOR A RARE TASTE OF FA CUP SUCCESS

Quiz time: what have only Blackpool and Brighton managed to do against Norwich in the past 13 seasons?

They are the only league teams to have been beaten by the Canaries in the FA Cup in all those years.

True, we've also managed to see off non-league Dagenham & Redbridge, Paulton and Tamworth, but otherwise we have been beaten no less than 10 times in the third round – a truly shocking record that cannot be allowed to continue next month against Leyton Orient.

Last season we couldn't even manage that, but I was prepared to accept the 'we're better out than in' reaction to losing at Carlisle as long as we made amends in the league.

Which we did somewhat emphatically – taking 31 points from our next 11 fixtures to soar to the top of the table.

A year ago there was always the underlying feeling that the league was our only concern – and possibly the Johnstone's Paint Trophy too – and while there's no doubt now that the Championship remains our priority, there is no reason why we shouldn't actually give it a real go in the FA Cup this season.

Who knows, if we got to the fifth round this time and got paired with Premier League opposition we might finally get drawn at home and have a real chance of success as well as surely picking up some much-needed television cash.

So there cannot be any excuses for failure against Leyton Orient - especially as we won't exactly be in the spotlight. There's going to have to be an awful lot of postponements before we come anywhere near receiving the match highlight fee of �6,750 from ITV.

As far as noteworthy occasions go, I reckon that only four other of the 32 ties are of less interest to the outside worlds: Swansea v Colchester, Torquay v Carlisle, Watford v Hartlepool or Yeovil and Wycombe v Hereford or Lincoln.

Droylsden would have been more interesting – the lowest-ranking visitors to Carrow Road since Redhill of the Athenian League played here in the FA Cup first round in 1957 – and given the way last week's replay at Brisbane Road went we'd have been guaranteed a few goals and red cards at least.

Whether Leyton Orient will bring as many as the surprisingly large total of 933 that saw their midweek league defeat at Carrow Road last season – the eighth best away following of the campaign – remains to be seen, but the FA-recommended third-round minimum adult ticket price of �15 may well deter a few home fans.

The Orient tie is the third of four home games for City fans in the space of 19 days, and given that it is sandwiched by meetings with the current top two and preceded by a bank-holiday afternoon kick-off, it's hard to guess which game people might decide to give a miss, isn't it?

Frankly, if they could under current FA regulations, I think the clubs should have been looking at a �10 maximum for this game.

However, as we now know - ask Ipswich and West Brom - the current benchmark for poor cup crowds is 11,363, so you'd hope there will at least be that many people inside Carrow Road on January 8.

After all, it's a chance to see a piece of modern history in the making – the last time we won a third-round tie at the first time of asking was against Sheffield United in 1997 – when John Major was prime minister and the Spice Girls were number one in the charts. Yes, that long ago.

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